Two years on, Ukraine war death toll remains shrouded in secrecy

Thu, 22 Feb 2024 8:49 GMT
Two years into the Russian invasion, the actual human cost of the war in Ukraine remains unknown, with both sides shrouding their losses in secrecy, and Russia allegedly covering up civilian deaths in occupied territories.
Two years on, Ukraine war death toll remains shrouded in secrecy

Official tolls of civilians killed since the beginning of the Russian invasion on Feb. 24, 2022, are unreliable as no independent count has been made due to a lack of access to Ukrainian territories occupied by Russia.

In June 2023, Ukrainian authorities said they had only been able to record 10,368 civilians whose bodies had been found.

"What we think most probable is that the number is five times higher. Around 50,000 casualties," said Oleg Gavrych, a top aide to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's chief of staff.

The U.N.'s human rights office has also acknowledged that the number is considerably higher than the some 10,000 civilians it had confirmed dead.

Ukrainian authorities believe the siege of the southern port of Mariupol from February to May 2022 alone left at least 25,000 dead, many buried in mass graves. The port remains under Russian control.

And there has never been a toll established for other towns that were nearly razed to the ground, like Bakhmut.

Across the Russian border, at least 145 civilians have been killed, according to the Russian news site 7x7.

'Hundreds of thousands' troops

Both Ukraine and Russia keep their military losses under wraps while regularly claiming, without providing proof, to have inflicted heavy losses on each other.

On Feb. 20 the Ukrainian army estimated it had killed or wounded more than 405,000 Russian troops since the invasion.

In December 2023, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu claimed that his troops had killed or injured 383,000 Ukrainian soldiers.

With no reliable tally available from the protagonists, Ukraine's allies have put together their own estimates.

In August 2023, the New York Times quoted U.S. officials as putting Ukraine's military losses at 70,000 dead and between 100,000 and 120,000 injured.

The U.S. officials estimated 120,000 dead and between 170,000 and 180,000 injured on the Russian side.

On Jan. 29 in a written response to a parliamentary question U.K. Armed Forces Minister James Heappey put the Russian losses at more than 350,000 dead and injured.


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